I never said HIV does not cause AIDS, says Thabo Mbeki
Former president Thabo Mbeki has addressed the "HIV denialism" which overshadowed his term in office.
"I never said 'HIV does not cause Aids'. This false accusation was made by people who benefitted from trumpeting the slogan 'HIV causes Aids' as though this was a religious edict.
"What I said is that 'a virus cannot cause a syndrome'," Mbeki said in his letter on Monday.
During his tenure, the former president was accused of denialism when it came to the issue of HIV/Aids.
He was slammed for policies that denied thousands of HIV-positive South Africans access ARVs, alongside former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who gained notoriety for her promotion of lemons, garlic and olive oil to treat Aids.
"Aids is an acronym for 'Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome' – therefore Aids is a syndrome, i.e. a collection of well-known diseases, with well-known causes. They are not, together, caused and cannot be caused by one virus! I said that HIV might be a contributory cause of immune deficiency – the ID in Aids!," Mbeki said.
Mbeki said in 2006 that HIV was the 9 leading cause of death in South Africa, while tuberculosis was at the top, according to StatsSA.
"I am convinced that it would be perfectly understandable that the normal, thinking African would ask the questions: Why did it come about that so much noise was made internationally about the 9 leading cause of death in our country, with not even so much as a whimper about the 1 leading cause of death, tuberculosis?"
On Monday, he questioned why the government would be expected to focus on the 9leading cause of death and treat the first eight causes as less urgent and important.
"Did this have to do with the fact that South Africa could be a lucrative market for the sale of ARVs, as it now is?"
Mbeki made an example of scientist and Nobel Prize winner Professor Luc Montagnier interview, in which he emphasised the importance of a good immune system.
"We should push for more, you know, a combination of measures; antioxidants, nutrition advice, nutritions, fighting other infections - malaria, tuberculosis, parasitosis, worms - education of course, genital hygiene for women and men also, very simple measures which [are] not very expensive, but which could do a lot. And this is my, actually my worry about the many spectacular action for the global funds to buy drugs and so on, and Bill Gates and so on, for the vaccine.
"But you know those kind of measures (I am suggesting) are not very well funded, they're not funded at all, or they are, you know, it really depends on the local government to take choice of this, but local governments they take advice of the scientific advisors from the intelligent institutions, and they don't get this kind of advice very often," Montagnier said in a video documentary.
Mbeki said, during his tenure, that the critical importance of nutrition and the need to use antiretroviral drugs with great care and caution was emphasised.
"Why were we wrong when we said the things Prof Montagnier said, while these were correct when he said them?" he asked.